The Little Storm on the Coast

Immerse yourself in indigenous music and culture at the Riddu Riddu Festival in Manndalen

Photo: Vanessa Brune
Indigenous performers from Arctic regions the world over share their song and dance at Riddu Riddu.

Vanessa Brune
Tromsø, Norway

Are you interested in indigenous cultures around the world? Would you like to hear Sámi artists perform yoik? And do you immediately think about the Midnight Sun and endless nights when you read about summertime in northern Norway?

Then maybe the Riddu Riddu festival in Manndalen is where you should head this summer!

What does Riddu Riddu mean and what is the festival about?
Riddu Riddu is an indigenous music and culture festival that has been organized for 26 years now and takes place in the little town of Manndalen in the Lyngen fjords, two hours away from Tromsø.

The name Riddu Riddu comes from the Sámi expression “little storm on the coast,” and the festival can really be described as such!

Riddu Riddu started out to celebrate and strengthen the rights of the Sea Sámi community in the area but quickly grew to become one of the most important indigenous festivals in Northern Europe. Each year, people from Canada, the U.S., Russia, and Asia come to participate and celebrate together.

What unites them all is the North. Most indigenous people participating come from the Arctic or Subarctic, and thus people can relate to each other and share their experiences of what it means to be indigenous in the North today.

During the four days of the festival, several concerts, seminars, workshops, and film screenings take place, and there also is a market where you can buy Sámi handicraft (duodji) and clothing.

Photo: Vanessa Brune
In addition to performances, the festival includes a market and many traditional dwellings, like this lavvu.

What is it like to attend the festival?
My partner and I had been invited to the festival to present our masters theses since we both wrote about Arctic indigenous peoples—he about the Sámi of Norway and I about the Inuit of Greenland. The Center of Northern Peoples, where the festival takes place, always organizes a cultural day program in addition to the concerts in the evenings.

Thus, you can listen to talks, participate in workshops and seminars, admire and learn from art and history exhibitions, browse the indigenous library, or attend movie screenings. The cultural program is packed over the four days of the festival. You can, for example, try to learn how to yoik or watch performances of indigenous dances.

People from all over the North wear their traditional costumes and proudly present their culture in a little valley surrounded by Arctic mountains. As you can imagine, there really is a special atmosphere at the festival and it is so interesting to learn more about other people’s cultures and celebrate together.

Not to mention the amazing typical Norwegian food (reindeer kebabs and fiskekake) and the concerts of Norwegian, Sámi, and even Mongolian artists! I particularly enjoyed the concert of the Norwegian singer Sondre Justad and the Mongolian rock band Hanggai at last year’s festival.

This year, the artists Dagny, Isak, Agy, and Ondt Blod are headlining in Manndalen, so you’re definitely in for a treat if you attend the festival!

Photo: Vanessa Brune

What do you need to know about the festival?
Riddu Riddu takes places every year in mid-July and if you’re visiting Tromsø or northern Norway during that time, I can only recommend you head to Manndalen for the festival.

The easiest way to get there is by car, although there is also a bus on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays to and from Tromsø. For accommodation, you can either bring (or rent) a tent and sleep at the campsite or you can try to rent a cabin in the area—although they get booked pretty fast, so hurry!

The festival is also extremely family-friendly and alcohol is forbidden in the area. If you want to drink, you have to visit the bar, which is fenced off so that no one under 18 can enter. And don’t worry about not being able to sleep due to noise pollution either—there’s a family campsite at the other end of the festival area for those who would like some peace and quiet after a long evening of dancing to yoik or Mongolian Rock ’n’ Roll.

Even though the festival had its origin in the Sámi culture, it’s absolutely no problem to communicate in English. In fact, a lot of the volunteers at the festival are international students in Tromsø and most of the program is conducted in English as well.

The best thing about the festival though? Free Wi-Fi all over the area! Okay, maybe not the best thing, but it surprised me in a very positive way anyway. I mean, who would expect Wi-Fi to work in a little valley in the Lyngen Alps? Then again, you wouldn’t expect people from all over the world to gather in said place to celebrate indigenous cultures either, so I guess it’s implied that Riddu Riddu is out of the ordinary and might surprise you on many levels!

You can get tickets online on Riddu Riddu’s website at riddu.no/en.

Vanessa Brune is a German expat living in Tromsø where she works with digital marketing and runs the blog www.snowinTromso.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 30, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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